Feb 2, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden surrogates test electability argument ahead of Iowa clash with Sanders

Biden at an event in Cedar Rapids the weekend before the Iowa caucuses. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

DES MOINES, Iowa — Former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), a friend and top surrogate for Joe Biden, said Sunday that if Bernie Sanders were the Democratic nominee, he'd have a "very difficult time" beating President Trump and pose a "serious" threat to Speaker Nancy Pelosi's ability to retain control of the House.

Why it matters: On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, Biden surrogates are testing electability arguments against Sen. Sanders, the perceived front-runner there, while lowering expectations about how well the former vice president may do in the first contest in the nation.

  • Dodd, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and Biden campaign senior adviser Symone Sanders spoke with reporters at a roundtable hosted by Bloomberg News in Des Moines.

What they're saying:

  • "We view Iowa as the beginning, not the end," Symone Sanders said, calling the results in the first four contests — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — "four parts of one whole."
  • “This nominating contest will go well into Super Tuesday and beyond,” she said.
  • Dodd said many of Sanders' views are “not mainstream views of Democrats" and that Medicare for All is “a great mistake."
  • Dodd acknowledged Sanders' appeal to many younger voters by saying they respond to the passion of "absolutes" and "black-and-white" arguments more than other voters.
  • But Trump would have a "field day" running against socialism, and that would have repercussions down the ballot, Dodd said. "Nancy Pelosi does not want to become the minority leader in the House again," he said, adding that “in the long run, you’ve got to win on Nov. 3."

Between the lines: Sanders is drawing the crowds and the money, and he has risen to the top spot in the Iowa Democratic polling average tracked by RealClearPolitics. With less than 48 hours to go, a highly anticipated Des Moines Register poll with CNN was pulled at the last minute Saturday night because of concerns about the administering of the questions.

Go deeper: Sanders snatches attention lead from Biden ahead of Iowa

Go deeper

Raising Bernie as Bernie rises

Trump supporters demonstrate against Sanders, April 15, 2019, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Bernie Sanders has surged to the front of the polls ahead of Monday's Iowa caucuses. And some of Trump's political advisers say they are doing their best to help him stay there.

Behind the scenes: "We're trying to promote the rise," said a Trump adviser. "The campaign has been pumping up the national messaging behind Bernie, pushing out fundraising emails. When you attack his policies, it gets the media to talk about him."

Joe Biden says Iowa caucus results were a "gut punch"

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Joe Biden told supporters in New Hampshire Wednesday that the Iowa caucus results were "a gut punch," per AP.

Where it stands: With 71% of precincts reporting in Iowa, Biden stands in fourth place, behind Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The Sanders surge shapes the Iowa caucuses

Data: Axios research; Note: (*) indicates a year where the majority was uncommitted; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

DES MOINES, Iowa — Bernie Sanders' momentum is shaping the final hours of the race to win tonight's Iowa caucuses, forcing his rivals to lower expectations and feeding the Democratic establishment's fears about what a Sanders victory could do to the party.

The state of play: Advisers to Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg are already insisting that Iowa's not everything in advance of possible disappointments tonight. "We view Iowa as the beginning, not the end," Biden adviser Symone Sanders said Sunday.